Paris (AFP) – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he will field a strong side for Thursday’s Europa League visit to BATE Borisov, despite a 4000km round trip in the middle of a spell of three games in seven days.
The second round of group-stage matches also sees AC Milan visit Croatia’s Rijeka, Everton host Cypriots Apollon Limassol and Nice face Vitesse Arnhem, with 24 games in total.
Wenger hinted grudgingly that he would not make wholesale changes despite a visit to Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday, after club record signing Alexandre Lacazette scored twice in a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on Monday.
“We have to accept it, but I will go with a team of senior players, and certainly a young bench,” said the Frenchman, whose side came from behind to beat Cologne 3-1 in their opener.
“We play Monday night, we play in Borisov on Thursday, and we play Sunday morning. For the team selection it has an impact.”
Belarusian champions Borisov, who are unbeaten in their previous seven European home games and drew 1-1 at Red Star Belgrade in their first match, could have to face the likes of Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez.
Run ragged in a 3-0 defeat at Italians Atalanta last time out in what coach Ronald Koeman called a “wake up call”, Everton host Apollon, who held French outfit Lyon to a 1-1 draw two weeks ago.
The Liverpudlians can thank former outcast Oumar Niasse for their 2-1 win over Bournemouth at the weekend, as they rallied from a poor start to the season with the forward scoring twice as a substitute.
Seven-time European champions AC Milan are another misfiring team despite heavy investment from their new Chinese owners.
Coach Vincenzo Montella is under pressure to ring the changes after a 2-0 loss to Sampdoria, their second in the league this season.
“It’s not about finding who is to blame. The club management have just told me to intervene to ensure there are no more games like this,” he said after a meeting with his bosses on Monday.
Nice striker Balotelli scored his fifth goal in four games in a 2-2 draw with Angers on Friday, ahead of their game with Vitesse Arnhem, which sees close-season signing Wesley Sneijder return to the Netherlands.
Balotelli scored twice as Lucien Favre’s side hammered Zulte Waregem 5-1 two weeks ago, after the disappointment of their Champions League play-off defeat by Napoli.